Senator Kerry Introduces the Shark Conservation Act of 2009

Washington, DC—Sharks may soon receive much-needed protection from finning, a practice by which their fins are cut off while the animal is still alive. Their mutilated bodies are then thrown back into the ocean, where they endure long, painful deaths from blood loss, suffocation or predation by other species. This cruel practice kills an estimated 73 million sharks each year, and was therefore outlawed in the US in 2000. Enforcement of the law, however, has been hampered by loopholes.

Today, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) introduced S. 850, the Shark Conservation Act of 2009, which will close these loopholes and strengthen the federal ban on shark finning. "Shark finning fueled by the foreign fin trade has led to serious population decline and disruption of our waters,” the Senator said. “We need much stronger solutions to end this illicit trade and current protections haven’t gotten the job done. We need to get serious." The House version of the bill, introduced by Representative Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), was approved by the House of Representatives in March. 

The bill requires that any fin aboard a vessel be naturally attached to the body of a shark, including fins that are transferred from one vessel to another. Enforcement officials have stated that this requirement is the only way to fully uphold a shark finning ban.

Since sharks are a top predator in the oceans, their removal damages the rest of the marine ecosystem. As animals who are slow to mature, with already small populations, sharks are extremely vulnerable to overfishing and exploitation. Unfortunately, millions of sharks are still targeted for their fins to meet the demand for shark fin soup, and millions more die annually as bycatch. Some species whose fins are highly prized include the spiny dogfish, as well as blue, hammerhead and whale sharks, which only reach sexual maturity at around 25 years of age.

"We are grateful to Senator Kerry for his leadership in seeking protection of sharks, and we look forward to the enactment of this vital law by Congress," says Serda Ozbenian of the Animal Welfare Institute.